Dream Disney World holiday for family of murdered taxi driver
Michael will be with us all the way, says brave Joanne McGibbon as family goes on dream trip
The family of a murdered taxi driver will leave the trauma of the last few months behind when they fly off today on the trip of a lifetime to Disney World in Florida.
Joanne McGibbon, whose husband Michael was gunned down by dissident republicans in April, surprised her four children on Christmas morning with the dream trip to Orlando.
After what has been the worst year of their lives, the family will start 2017 miles away from the memories and sadness of the Ardoyne area where their happiness was shattered when Michael was shot dead.
Joanne was determined that her children would have a happy Christmas.
Speaking on Christmas Eve, she said: "I am so excited. I can't wait to see their wee faces.
"I'm just glad we won't be sitting sad this Christmas, we are being positive and we are going to have a ball in Florida."
Michael, who was just 33, was savagely murdered in north Belfast.
He bled to death in Joanne's arms in an alleyway close to their Ardoyne home after being gunned down by the so-called New IRA for reportedly having said something which one of the terrorist group's members took offence at.
And today all five of them will be boarding a plane for Florida in what Joanne says was a well-deserved break for her children after the trauma of the last few months.
She says: "I just felt the children have been through so much and deserved something special to give them a lift.
"It has been hard trying to pack cases and keep everything secret for Christmas morning.
"They really have no idea and we're booked for Boxing Day and I know they will be over the moon. It will be a nice way to end what has been a terrible year and give them something nice to think about."
Mr McGibbon's murder was one of the most shocking in Northern Ireland in recent times.
He was shot three times in the leg in a killing which police said bore the hallmarks of a paramilitary attack.
At the time detectives said Mr McGibbon had contacted them to say that two masked men had arrived at his house on the evening of April 14.
The men ordered him to come out of the house but he refused, and they told him they would return. They did so the following night and, after going with them, he was shot.
Despite a number of arrests, no-one has been charged in connection with the killing.
Earlier this month Joanne returned to the scene in a brave show of defiance against her husband's killers.
She spoke out after mobile phone footage emerged of three masked men brandishing a suspected rocket propelled grenade launcher at the spot where Michael died.
As well as the struggle to come to terms with the loss of her husband, Joanne (34) and the children are also adapting to a new life away from their community in Ardoyne.
Michael died just yards from their home and Joanne has taken her children - Seana (17), Shea (9), Michaela (7) and Corry-Leigh (4) - away from the area to spare them the pain of having to pass the spot where their dad died.